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Do All Cats Scratch Furniture? Behavior Explained


Apr 19, 2023
a cat scratching door


a cat scratching door

If you’ve set your mind to owning a feline pet, scratching is a normal behavior that you should expect. All cats, whether wild or domestic, scratch to sharpen their claws and as a means of marking their territory. This means they can scratch on anything, including furniture.

That said, the best you can do is provide an appropriate alternative for your cat to scratch as a way of deterring them from ruining furniture, walls, or drapes.

Keep reading to learn why cats scratch and how to redirect the scratching.


Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture?

For cats, scratching is a common behavior, and there are several reasons why your pet scratches your furniture and any other surface it may get its paws on. You must remember that animals don’t have a defined sense of right or wrong and only think in terms of meeting their needs.

While all cats scratch, some breeds are more relaxed and passive, so they won’t require a lot of deterring from ruining your furniture. Those that do are subject to lack of a better alternative and will resort to destructive scratching 1, whether on furnishings, carpets, walls, or door posts.

But while scratching provides physical, social, and emotional stability for your kitty, the main reasons why cats scratch include the following:

1. To Mark Their Territory

Cats are territorial mammals regardless of their age, breed, or gender, and scratching is a way of staking their claim on areas or items around the house. Your cat will let its counterparts know of its presence around your furniture by leaving claw marks and pheromone scent from glands between its paw pads.

You’ll find that felines surrounded by other pets are more inclined to leave these signals around their favorite places. A designated scratcher is necessary for such purposes especially if your cat is prone to marking household items.

2. To Stretch Before or After Relaxation

Your cat stretches more than once during the day, extending every part of their body and flexing their claws. While doing this, the feline will exercise its forelimbs, spine, and muscles, using its weight as resistance and thereby scratching whatever is nearby.

Cats love to laze around and sleep mostly in the daylight hours, and they’ll stretch and scratch before and after this activity. As such, your indoor cat that doesn’t venture outside is more prone to scratching the piece of furniture they prefer sleeping on.

Gray cat lying down a cat tree with scratching post
Image Credit: husnerova, Pixabay

3. To Maintain Their Claws

One of the few ways that your cat keeps their claws healthy is by scratching, which releases the outer husks to make new growth possible. Similar to your fingernail, a cat’s claw is made of keratin, but unlike in humans, it’s composed of several layers.

When your cat scratches, the older layers peel off to reveal newer claws underneath, which are much sharper to help with catching and killing prey while hunting and climbing. Cats that regularly scratch don’t require constant claw clipping, so it makes sense to encourage this behavior constructively with scratching posts.

4. Boredom, Attention Seeking, or Gameplay

Your cat may be scratching furniture for lack of anything else to do-cats with lots of activities, toys, or interactions don’t find time to scratch.

A feline pet that’s seeking attention will also scratch furniture, especially if they’re suffering from separation anxiety or feeling ignored by its owner.

It’s also obvious to every cat owner that these pets are sometimes playful and rambunctious, running around, climbing, and scratching furniture. The behavior is typical of juvenile cats and more common in some breeds than others. It’s nothing to worry about as these gameplay spurts don’t last, and toys will help deviate their attention.

cat scratcher_WillianJustendeVasconcellos_Unsplash
Image Credit: Willian Justen de Vasconcellos, Unsplash


How Do You Keep Your Cat From Scratching Furniture?

You must realize the reasons your cat is scratching furniture in the first place before looking for solutions to this behavior. Rarely will you find a furry pet that’s destroying your favorite couch out of malice, as it’s an ingrained instinct in all felines.

Instead of trying to stop your cat from scratching, offer them an alternative in the form of what or where to scratch. You can provide cat-appropriate objects that are more attractive to scratch than furniture on which they can direct this urge.

Some useful provisions and behavioral modifications include:

  • Providing scratching posts made of carpeting, upholstery, cardboard, or sisal. Your cat may prefer a vertical, horizontal, or slanted post with grain for picking or raking, and it could be ground level or placed higher up.
  • Use a deterrent spray that your cat will avoid on furniture pieces or places you don’t want them to scratch. Select sprays made from natural ingredients which don’t have a discernible odor except for your feline pet, and they’ll steer clear of sprayed items.
  • As a last resort, startle the cat with loud claps or squirting water on them when you catch them in the act, so they’ll associate your negative response with that behavior.

While all these procedures will work to a certain degree in deterring your cat from scratching furniture, investing in toys may help if your cat’s behavior is borne out of boredom or gameplay. Keep these playthings next to pieces of furniture that your feline pet has a habit of scratching on to capture their attention.

Also, it helps to commit to spending some quality time with your cat, as they may be scratching furniture as a way of seeking attention. Spend a few moments during the day or before bedtime to play with your pet and cuddle to communicate your love and care.

Persian cats on a cat scratcher_RomeoEbaloo_Pixabay
Image Credit: Romeo Ebaloo, Pixabay

What Not to Do While Discouraging Your Cat From Scratching Furniture

Avoid punishing your cat for scratching furniture as their psyche won’t connect their action with whatever consequence you’re doing up. When you’ve introduced scratching posts as an alternative to furniture for your cat, don’t force them to dig their claws in, as they may get frightened and avoid them completely.

Declawing, while popular in the past, is discouraged as cats experience pain when claws are amputated. While you may trim the sharp points of each claw, it won’t deter them from scratching furniture, but your pet will have trouble walking, climbing, and playing.

When your cat scratching posts have been thoroughly scratched and appear unsightly, avoid throwing them away, as felines prefer torn and shredded objects. That’s because other than the pheromone scent they’ve left behind on well-scratched posts, they can get their claws better into the material, and it looks familiar.


Final Word

Scratching is normal to a cat, and while not all cats scratch furniture, they’ll display it at any time for several reasons, so there’s no need to try to get rid of this behavior. It’s an instinctive and normal way of showing emotion, such as stress or excitement, marking their territory while giving themselves a manicure.

You may, however, offer alternatives to furniture for your feline pet to scratch. Offer them toys and affirm your companionship by spending quality time together.

Featured Image Credit: SoNelly, Shutterstock

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